Finance Finance News Foreign workers may fill resources skills shortage

Foreign workers may fill resources skills shortage

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A skills shortage in the oil and gas industry may be filled by foreign workers if the resources industry and Australian governments do not do more to train workers, a new report has found.

The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) says in its Resources Sector Skills Needs 2013 report that as mining investment winds down, tens of thousands of jobs are expected to go in the construction industry.

It recommends that the resources industry works with governments and education providers to develop a national strategy for the oil and gas industry with new university courses and apprenticeship schemes.

AWPA board member Keith Spence says a new approach is needed to get more local workers into oil and gas.

“Industry needs to work together rather than independently,” he told the ABC.

“There are some fantastic examples of programs that individual companies are running. But what it needs is a more co-ordinated approach.”

The report warned of a “highly volatile phase ahead” for resources construction, as the number of estimated jobs falls from an expected 83,324 in 2014 to 7,708 in 2018.

Employment in mining production is predicted to rise by about 7 per cent from 236,690 workers in 2013 to 254,260 in 2018 as the export phase of the resources boom takes over.

At the same time, the report says the number of jobs in oil and gas is likely to jump by nearly two thirds from just under 39,000 workers in 2013 to 61,212 in 2018.

But the report says it will be “difficult to source” many of these specialist roles locally so highly trained foreign workers are expected to be hired as supervisors in Australia’s booming oil and gas industry.

Global energy giant Shell has said about 10 per cent of its workforce on the Prelude floating LNG project off northern Australia will be filled by highly trained foreign staff.

Calls for more collaboration on training programs

Mr Spence says more needs to be done by governments and industry to train oil and gas workers.

“The challenge here is quite significant. There is substantial growth in operations workforce both in mining and oil and gas,” he said.

“Our fear is that without some coordinated effort we won’t step up to the mark as well as we could.”

The report identifies a shortage of drillers, mining engineers, and chemical, gas, petroleum and power generation plant operators.

The agency is calling for new university courses and apprenticeship programs for specialist oil and gas jobs based on the UK’s Oil and Gas Upstream Technician Training Scheme and Western Australia’s energy apprenticeship scheme.

It also wants post graduate training for workers in automation as more companies use technology to improve productivity and save money.

The report says more attention is needed to attract students to study science, technology, engineering and maths – skills which it says have declined considerably in recent years.

Mining workers highly skilled, older and predominantly male

The AWPA report found the mining industry remained male dominated with 85 per cent of the workforce male.

A high proportion of mining workers were highly skilled compared to the rest of the workforce, with nearly two-thirds holding a Certificate III level qualification or higher, compared to 58 per cent across all industries.

Mining industry workers also tended be older, with 58 per cent of workers aged from 25 to 44, compared to the all industries average of 45 per cent.

The government’s commodity forecaster, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, said last month that mining investment had peaked and the number and value of major resources projects had fallen from $268 billion in April to $240 billion in October.

It said Australia was seeing a transition from mining investment to export production in the resources industry.